I’m a sucker for time travel novels and movies.
The notion of somebody from today slipping back into the world of yesterday has been mighty appealing to me since I watched the movie The Time Machine when I was eight or nine, which led me to check H.G. Well’s novel out of the school library. A couple of my more recent reading experiences were If I Never Get Back, a novel by Darryl Brock in which a bored reporter finds himself transported to 1869 as a member of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team, and Time and Again by Jack Finney, widely considered the best time travel novel ever written.
I enjoyed “Somewhere in Time”, with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, and I keep my eyes open for any new book or film that has any zappage-to-yesteryear potential.
I get disappointed regularly in this odd quest. But I hit the jackpot occasionally.
Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 is about a high school English teacher – the stuff of a true hero, if I might say so – who stumbles upon a worm hole in time that sends him back to the late 1950’s. Once there, he buys himself a used ’54 Ford Sunliner convertible and heads out across a nation that is racially segregated and full of newly constructed bomb shelters and roadside diners with blue plate specials. Finally he cooks up a plan to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy.
It should be obvious by now that I liked the novel very much. But here’s the deal: if it hadn’t had to do with time travel, I wouldn’t have read it. Because I had sworn off Steven King. I very much enjoyed his early stuff like Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and The Shining. But when he started churning out fantasy sagas like the Dark Tower series, my interest waned. Then a few years ago I gave him another chance and read Full Dark, No Stars, his collection of four novellas that plunge awfully deep into situations particularly horrible and grotesque. After that I figured I was done with Mr. King once and for all.
Until I bought the Kennedy book and lugged the hefty tome home.
It’s a definite page-turner, over 900 of them in fact. I’ve recommended it to a good many people, and everybody who read it tells me they couldn’t put it down. And believe me, putting that colossal volume down is preferable to holding it up.
Much of the story takes place in a small Texas town between 1958 and 1963. Since I was located in just such a town during that span of years and was upright and paying attention, I can attest to the fact that King, who has lived his entire life in Maine, did his research and did it exceedingly well.
In fact, reading “11/22/63” was like being back there again.
The author, who is a master of the art of fiction, is at his very best here. And the section of the book that takes place in that little Texas berg is a swift-flowing river of details that perfectly captures that time and place: Coca-Colas in thick bottles that have to be opened with what we all called church keys, big black and white television sets without remote controls, attic fans pulling in fresh air through billowing thin curtains, big pitchers of sweet iced tea sitting on stainless steel breakfast dinette tables with bright yellow Formica tops, and tiny one screen movie theaters that everybody calls picture shows.
Ironically, King’s novel is not only about time travel, it actually provides it. At least it did for me.
So. Who has a good time travel yarn to recommend?
(some of this is from an article I wrote in 2012)